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The Most Dangerous Virus

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Here’s a letter to a frequent reader of my blog:

Ms. Robertson:

Thanks for your e-mail.

You ask why I write so little about the coronavirus. My answer is simple: I have nothing to add to the already huge discussion of this matter. I’m completely ignorant of medicine and public health, and I know next to nothing about the history and the economics of pandemics. As I recall my great colleague Walter Williams long-ago telling a tv-show host who questioned him on some topic about which Walter had no expertise, “Unlike you, Mr. ___, I don’t pretend to know everything about everything.”

So I spend my time combatting a virus about which I do have some expertise, however modest. And as it happens this virus is far more lethal, widespread, and frightening than is the coronavirus. The virus of which I speak is the economic-superstition virus.

In the past 100 years alone, one especially deadly strain of this virus (namely, communism) killed 100 million people [2]. And those whom this virus doesn’t kill it impoverishes –  witness the deprivation suffered still today by the people of Cuba [3] and North Korea.

Fortunately, we Americans aren’t yet as widely infected as are the populations of some other countries with the most lethal strains of the economic-superstition virus. But traces of some of these strong strains of the virus are amongst us, and less-lethal but nevertheless debilitating strains are widespread now in the U.S. – and seemingly infecting more and more Americans daily. On the left rampages the democraticsocialismvirus. On the right looms the threat of a pandemic of the economicnationalismvirus. Untreated and uncontained, these strains of the economic-superstition virus will become increasingly lethal as they spread.

My effort, if it is of any value at all to others, is best devoted to inoculating whoever I can against any and all strains of the virus of economic-superstition.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030